It really sounds like the very best day of the year, doesn’t it? In 2003 Anita Stewart (whom I was lucky enough to finally meet in person a few weeks ago in Calgary) launched Food Day -a national celebration of restaurateurs, suppliers, growers, farmers and eaters- to be held the first Saturday of the first weekend in August. On this day each summer Canadians are encouraged to eat whatever is local and in season, and to share it online. Click here to share your own Food Day stories. (Even if it’s just to report what you had for dinner.) I love that Food Day not only allows us to share ideas and share what grows in each region of the country, it helps us Canadians define our food culture – and exactly what Canadian cuisine is, anyway.
Being out in Tofino, on the furthestmost west end of Canada, we celebrated the day with some crab plucked from the waters outside our window, fished from kayaks, and wee grilled cheese sandwiches made with BC aged white cheddar and leaves of fresh basil from a plant bought at the Tofino Saturday morning market, on thinly sliced baguette baked at Jupiter. (Breakfast was bagels from the Six Hundred Degree Bakery – a naturally leavened, wood fired bakery here in Tofino – some of them turned into bageleggs.)
For dinner we ate salads made with a head of red leaf lettuce snipped from the side yard of our ninetysomething next-door neighbours, who maintain an impressive garden filled with tomatoes, beans, beets, beautiful heads of lettuce and rows of chard (I have chard envy) beside their sundial. In it, roasted beets and crumbled feta from Nanaimo.
For dessert, I ran over to Beaches grocery and picked up a bag of BC peaches and a paper tub of tiny blackberries that just arrived from Nanoose Bay. We debated what to do with them – oh the pressure! – crisp? buckle? pie? I’ve made two cobblers this summer already. As I dithered (and dished up dinner) it got late, and so a quick crumble won. And really, as I thickly sliced and piled the unpeeled peaches and berries into shallow ramekins (bigger surface area) alone – we eat the fruit straight out of hand and find it plenty sweet enough – why add sugar and cornstarch to bake it? – and topped it with the rubble of flour, sugar, oats and butter I had hastily mashed together with a fork and my fingers, I knew it was exactly what I wanted it to be.
As usual, I didn’t follow a recipe. I sliced up the fruit and put it in ramekins as is, and the crumble was equal parts (I used a 1/2 cup measure) flour, sugar and oats – generally I use brown sugar, but we’re out, so I used white and added a tiny dribble of molasses, and it worked fine – with about half as much (about 1/4 cup, although you could go ahead and use more) butter. If I had pecans, I would have thrown some in too. Blend it all together with a fork and scatter over top of the fruit – squeezing as you do to make bigger clumps – and bake it until the juices run out and the topping is golden (for me, it was 40 minutes at 375F). That’s it.
You can’t really underbake a crumble or crisp – you’d eat peaches and blackberries raw, wouldn’t you? You just want to make sure the topping is golden, and thus crisp. There’s a big window so it won’t need babysitting – I pulled one out early, after about 25 minutes, for my sister, who was hopping into the tub and wanted some to take with her. That one was firmer – more like warmed, soft fresh fruit – but still golden on top and no less delicious. The ones that baked longer released more of their juices and the fruit was softer and crumbs darker golden; both more than worthy for a Food Day Canada feast. We topped them with vanilla bean gelato from Chocolate Tofino.